The Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Hare ) to the Secretary of Defense ( Johnson )1

top secret

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I have received General Burns’ letter of February 13, 19502 with respect to the Dhahran Air Base Agreement which expires on June 23rd of this year.

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Your cooperation in requesting the Secretary of the Air Force to designate a representative for informal talks with the Department of State is appreciated. It is hoped these talks may commence in the near future.

It is believed advisable in this connection to give particular consideration to the question of timing which has arisen. It is understood that the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense with regard to Brigadier General O’Keefe’s report will be available during March. On the other hand, it is not expected that the Congress will complete its consideration of the question of military assistance for all countries including Saudi Arabia for the fiscal year 1951 before June. It therefore seems likely that, at the time negotiations commence between the United States and Saudi Arabia regarding the Dhahran Air Base, Congressional action will not be complete and only your recommendations regarding the O’Keefe report will be available.

It is recalled that the Saudi Arabian Government including particularly King Ibn Saud has consistently informed us that although the United States was welcome to use the strategic facilities of Saudi Arabia, it was absolutely essential that military assistance be provided if we wished to enjoy such facilities on a long-range and comprehensive basis. It is even possible that King Ibn Saud might refuse to engage in conversations unless the United States was in a position to give him some indication of the extent to which we were able to provide Saudi Arabia with military assistance.

There is no doubt that such information will be required by the representatives of the United States during negotiations with the Saudi Arabian Government with respect to the extension of the Dhahran Air Base Agreement. It would, therefore, be appreciated if the Department of Defense would give consideration to the question of whether the United States Government would be able to provide Saudi Arabia with some form of military assistance on a token or temporary basis pending Congressional action on presently proposed military assistance legislation.3 In considering the various forms of [Page 1131] token or temporary assistance which might be provided it is suggested that reference might be made to the suggestions contained in telegram No. 83, of February 14, 19504 to the Department of State from the American Embassy at Jidda. A copy of this message is enclosed.

Sincerely yours,

Raymond A. Hare
  1. A summary of this letter was transmitted in telegram 48, March 11, to the Legation in Ethiopia for McGhee. The telegram, not printed, also informed McGhee that the final Mutual Defense Assistance Program for 1950 and programs and budget estimates for 1951 were scheduled to be submitted to the Bureau of the Budget on April 1, and to Congress on April 20. (786A.5MAP/3–150)

    McGhee had gone to Africa for a United States diplomatic meeting at Lourenco Marques and then visited a number of African countries. For information on his African trip, see the editorial note, p. 1512.

  2. Not printed, but see footnote 6, p. 1124.
  3. An answer to this letter from the Secretary of Defense, dated April 20, reported the Joint Chiefs of Staff had determined that 5,000 M–1 rifles and 5 million rounds of ammunition could be made available to Saudi Arabia without seriously affecting the mobilization capability of United States forces. The closing paragraph of the letter read: “I suggest, therefore, that if you should determine that as a last resort tangible evidence of US intent is required in connection with negotiations for the extension of the Dhahran Base Agreement, and if definite indication of favorable action is obtained from appropriate congressional leaders as to the proposed reimbursable aid program for Saudi Arabia, we collaborate in recommending that the President authorize the transfer.” (711.56386A/4–2050)

    The proposal to send such a shipment had previously been made by Gen. J. Lawton Collins, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, during his visit to Saudi Arabia on an inspection trip to the Middle East. See his telegram of April 3, p. 1154.

  4. Ante, p. 1126.